The Los Angeles Dodgers’ retooling has gone as well as any in recent memory, championships notwithstanding. The team pumps out top prospects annually and another seamlessly steps into his place. The system is regularly ranked among the league’s best. The cherry on top: Los Angeles also has the financial capabilities to retain its core.
By 2019, the Dodgers could have an all homegrown infield and outfield except Justin Turner. Of course, that’s not guaranteed with the upcoming free agency periods and the Dodgers’ tendency of frequenting the trade market.
It’s known Los Angeles is a prospect powerhouse. In a division loaded with upcoming young talent, Corey Seager and Julio Urias are the cream-of-the-crop. The Dodgers are well positioned to be a playoff threat past 2020. But what about the rest of the division? Who is set up to challenge L.A. in the next half-decade?
San Francisco has obviously been the class of baseball over the last 10 years. The Giants will forever be the Dodgers’ arch enemy, but their future isn’t so certain. They lack farm depth and that’s hurt them in trade talks across the last year. Infielder Christian Arroyo is far and away the best of the group, but even he failed to stand out a season ago. Tyler Beede has top of the rotation upside, but his command is a question.
Jeff Samardzija, Hunter Pence, Johnny Cueto, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt are all approaching 30 or over it. For as great a run as San Francisco has had, as the Phillies taught us, attrition will occur. Unlike Philadelphia, the Giants have done a much better job managing contracts and shouldn’t carry a number of albatrosses into the next era. As long as Bruce Bochy is around, they’ll be a tough out.
The farm may not be flashy, but it never is. The Giants know how to find diamonds in the rough and make nothing into something. We know to never assume anything with this group.
Colorado is the most interesting case. Like the Dodgers, the Rockies frequent the top of most farm system rankings. Much of the talent assembled in the last few years is blossoming. In the minor ranks, Colorado possesses a number of top tier guys, headlined by Brendan Rodgers. The Rockies added Riley Pint and Robert Tyler last June, giving them a high school arm oozing potential and a productive college pitcher to one day potentially anchor the rotation.
The Rockies have rebuilt with Coors Field in mind, stacking up bats before complementing them with pitching. Colorado will be a popular sleeper pick in 2017, especially after adding a manager familiar with the division in Bud Black, but that may be a year too soon. The Rockies have built a surplus at a number of positions to become one of the bigger players in future trade markets.
Spoiling a future article here but Atlanta and Colorado are my two surprise teams. https://t.co/4m6XxzYpH5
— Gabe Burns (@GabeBurns_DN) February 13, 2017
Jon Gray, David Dahl and Trevor Story made waves last season. Prospects such as pitcher Jeff Hoffman, catcher Tom Murphy and outfielder Raimel Tapia should have ample opportunity this year. The team’s glaring weakness was its bullpen, so it added Greg Holland and Mike Dunn to solidify the late innings. If Holland bounces back, the Rockies could be a legitimate wild card contender.
Colorado could move impending Carlos Gonzalez or Charlie Blackmon to clear the outfield jam, but the story moving forward will be how the organization handles its infield. Ian Desmond is scheduled to play first this year as the Rockies’ big offseason acquisition. The rest of the infield consists of DJ LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, Story and Rodgers. Sounds like a good problem to have.
Arizona has a much better MLB roster than its 2016 performance indicated. Its farm is still enduring the pain of the Dave Stewart era, however. It doesn’t have a clear cut “guy” to look forward to and the depth is among the league’s worst. Anthony Banda might be a future rotation piece to pare with Archie Bradley and Brandon Shipley for the long haul. Bradley has disappointed thus far, but he’s not alone. The team is hooked to Zack Greinke’s contract and sacrificed the 2015 first overall pick, another rotation piece and one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball for pitcher Shelby Miller, who was demoted to Triple-A during the season.
The Diamondbacks could go either way. If they blow up the MLB roster, they could hypothetically build a contender in a few years with the return the outgoing talent would warrant. If the current group performs closer to expectation, then they already have a team capable of reaching the playoffs. That thought process may prevent a roster incineration. But moving Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock and the like could ignite a rebuild mirroring that of the Chicago White Sox. As of now, the Diamondbacks are riding the treadmill.
San Diego better be competitive by 2020. The franchise’s process was a mega waste of time if not. The Padres dropped a nuke on their roster in a fashion similar to the Houston Astros years ago. San Diego cut its losses and committed to retool the franchise from the ground up. So far, so good on that move.
The Padres’ best prospects are teenagers, insinuating they’re willing to wait for prolonged success. Spearheading the group is Anderson Espinoza, whom San Diego basically stole from Boston in the Drew Pomeranz deal. Espinoza is favorably compared to Pedro Martinez, which is both a ridiculous and lofty statement to make. Outfielder Manuel Margot was also acquired from Boston in the Craig Kimbrel trade. He and Hunter Renfroe will start this season if all goes as planned. The duo complement each other well with Margot’s speed and Renfroe’s power.
Adrian Morejon was signed out of Cuba. He’s a hard-throwing lefty who has a knukleball in his repertoire. Austin Hedges will have full-time catching duties and Ryan Schimpf will get more time when Yangervis Solarte is traded. The Padres own a stacked deck of talent, but those who will make or break the rebuild are too far away to declare San Diego a surefire playoff threat in three seasons.